Extraordinary, by Miriam Spitzer Franklin (2015, Sky Pony Press), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-63220-402-8
Recommended for ages 9-14
Ten year-old Pansy wasn’t the brave one. That was Anna, her best friend. Anna cut off her hair for Locks of Love, she was a star student, she ice skated and went camping… and Pansy always chickened out at the last minute. But Anna went away to camp, even after Pansy backed out, and contracted meningitis, and now she’s a different person: wheelchair-bound and nonverbal, suffering from seizures.
When Pansy discovers that Anna’s parents have scheduled brain surgery to relieve Anna’s seizures, Pansy expects a miracle that will bring Anna back to her. And she’s going to become the friend Anna deserves. She’s going to be extraordinary. She’s going to take all the risks that she backed out on, do everything that scared her, and be the student Anna was, so that Anna will be proud of her when she comes out of surgery. The only thing is, what will she sacrifice in the process?
This is such a good story about enduring friendship. We get a glimpse into a pre-adolescent psyche, where Pansy takes on the guilt and weight of Anna’s illness, making herself responsible, in some ways, for Anna’s recovery. If she can become extraordinary, Anna will be okay. It’s unspoken, but it’s there. We see a family forever changed by their daughter’s sudden illness, and we see the fallout radiate to family friends. It’s a strong picture that we don’t normally see, but that I hope – with the advent of the #weneeddiversebooks movement – we will read more often.
While the book doesn’t make Anna’s illness the focal point, it is the motivating factor for the main character, and we see the conflicts presented in supporting characters as they deal with it. Anna’s twin brother, Andy, has his own wishes and frustrations; her parents have to care for her and make tough decisions about her care, and her friends at school have questions. Ms. Franklin includes Anna’s big picture story within the framework of Pansy’s main story, and it comes together beautifully.
Extraordinary should be on Summer Reading lists, particularly with the CSLP‘s Every Hero Has a Story theme this year. If it’s not on your school’s list, add it to your personal list, and mention it to your teachers for Fall/Back to School reading.
Miriam Spitzer Franklin’s author page offers information about Extraordinary, including a forthcoming educator’s guide and a list of K-5 workshops she conducts.